Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The philosopher Trinity of India

Madhwa Navami is a highly important event for all Madhwas and it was held a few days ago. All mathas in Bangalore and Vaishnava temples celebrated the day with free food, religious discourses and special poojas.
It was on this day that Madhwacharya, the Viashnava saint philosopher of the 12th century, disappeared amid a shower of flowers from the Anantheshwara Temple in Udupi after giving a lucid lecture on the Upanishad.
A master commentator, philosopher and writer, Madhwacharya is ranked among the trinity of saint-philosophers of India who have given a solid foundation to Indian philosophy and religion. The trinity are Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhwacharya. The first of the trinity was Shankaracharya who propagated the concept of  monoism or Adwaitha.
Shankara or Adi Shankara (788-820) wrote several works in Sanskrit and established the four Shankara Peethas across India to support his doctrine of Adwaitha Vedanta.
He preached the unity of the atma and and nirguna Brahman (one which has no attributes) and extensively based this concept on the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and, of course, the Bhagawath Geetha. He took on the Mimamsa school of thought and pioneered what later came to be known as Shanmata tradition of worship.
His philosophy can be summarised in his own words as,
“ Brahma satyam jagat mithya, jivo brahmaiva naparah,”

meaning that Brahma (paramathma) is the only truth and that the world is an illusion  and that finally there is no difference between  Brahma and Atma (individual self).
After Shankara came Ramanujacharya (1017-1137) with his concept of  Vishistadwaitha. This concept stresses that Brahma is ultimate and that it has several attributes. Ramanuja says that Brahma or truth (paramathma) is different from the individual.
He further says that all jeevatmas will join Paramathma.
He set out five basic steps of his philosophy of Vedanta. They are 
Taapa or the branding of the symbols of conch and discuss on the shoulders of a person. These two symbols will help eliminate past sins and also serve as a reminder to the person that he is a servant of Narayana.
The second is Pundra or the application of sacred marks on twelve places on the human body. This, Ramanujacharya, said is protection against temptation and also a reminder that the body is a temple.
The third step is Dasya Nama or securing a name that constantly reminds one that the person is a servant of god. 
The fourth is Mantra Upadesha or instruction of the three sacred mantras and their meaning. Ramanajucharya was certain that recitation of these mantras will redeem one from the cycle of birth and death (Karma and rebirth).   
The fifth and last step was Yaga or complete surrender to Narayana.
The third of the trinity was Madhwacharya (1199-1287). It was Madhwacharya who for the first time opposed the concept of Shankara and his monoism.
Madhwa said the world is not an illusion as set out by Shankara. He said the world is not maya and that it is as real as a human being. The pain, suffering and desires of man were also as real as other human attributes. 
Madhwacharya preached what is known as Dwaitha or Bhedavada. This is also known as Tatwavada and Bimba-pratibimba-vada. He has a huge volume of works which are collectively known as Sarvamoola Grantha. He based his philosophy on the Vedas, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Pancharatra Agamas
Madhwacharya distinguishes between Atma or bodily soul and Paramathma, the supreme being and this is the essence of  his philosophy.
For Madhwacharya, the supreme being was none other than Narayana or Vishnu. For him, the soul of an individual was not created by God but nonetheless they depended on God for their existence or survival.
For the acharya, the supreme being is personal and one who has several attributes. This supreme being is none other than “brahmashabdashcha vishnaveva” or Vishnu.
Vishnu thus takes on the role of a guardian of the Universe and all others Gods are subordinate to him. It is in his “Vishnu tatwavinirnaya” that he establishes the supremacy of Vishnu.
Interestingly, Madhwacharya’s principle of Dwaitha is not similar to the concept of Western dualism. For Madhwacharya, the jeevatama or individual Jeeva or prana are dependent on Paramathma. Thus, he says there are two worlds and one is dependent on the other.
Madhwacharya enunciated five main differences and they are  the differences:
Between the individual soul (jeevatma) and God (Brahmatma or Vishnu).
Between matter (inanimate-jata) and God.
Among individual souls (jeeva)
Between matter (jata) and jeeva.
Among various types of matter (jata-jata).
All these five differences go on to make up the universe which Madhwacharya calls prapancha.
However, the Jeeva or atma for Madhwacharya is not one. He not only attributes characters to them but also distinguishes them into three categories.
The souls are classified as Mukti (which can get liberated), nitya which means rebirth and andhatmas which are condemned to hell. This is the first time that an Indian philosopher makes such a distinction. No other Indian philosopher or theologician or even school of thought has held such thoughts or propagated them.
It was Jayatheertha or Teekacharya who interpreted the works of Madhwacharya so that even a common man could understand them. This was further simplified by Vyasa Raja (1447-1539).

Today, we have a huge volume of works on Dwaitha philosophy. The essence of this philosophy is Taratamya and the five-fold differences which is commonly called Pancha Beda.

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